How One Head of Loyalty Helps Customers Every Day

Long-time Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher used to say they were in the customer service business “we just happened to fly airplanes.” Jeff Bezos talks about the importance of focusing on your customers, not on your competitors.

Those are two principles I think about in the me-too US airline world. And principles I thought of when I saw Mark Ross-Smith share on Facebook how he interacts with customers.

Mark is the head of the Malaysia Airlines Enrich program. He’s also the source of data and analysis on how Cathay Pacific’s revenue based changes to its elite program hurt the bottom line. He’s also been a blog commenter here for instance here and here.

His Facebook page isn’t public so I couldn’t share his story directly, but I reached out to ask if I could re-publish it here and he agreed. It’s really an amazing story.

Since joining Malaysia Airlines, one thing I’ve done every day is spend 1 hour at the airport after work.

My goal has been to do one simple act of kindness for a [Malaysia Airlines] passenger. From helping with lost luggage, lost in the airport, sick passengers, one pa[ssenger] missed their flight and I helped get it all rebooked and stayed with them til they boarded (after midnight).

I’ve given lounge access to an elderly couple who had a long transit, helped an Enrich member sign up for our Co brand credit card while I bought him a drink at the cafe, used my personal Uber account to send a pa[ssenger] to his hotel, and this is only the beginning.

This week, I decided to try something new by giving a box of Godiva chocolates to 3x Blue, 3x Silver and 3x Platinum passengers.

Hunting down random pa[ssengers] is tricky (especially those without lounge access). One of my Silver members tonight was boarding a flight to Kota Kinabalu…but he had already boarded! Determined to make his day I boarded the aircraft (it was mid boarding at this point) found my pa[ssenger] and embarrassed him a little in front of his fellow seat mates by thanking him for his continued loyalty with Malaysia Airlines. Crew brought him a welcome drink from business class afterwards.

These moments are the very reason I love this role as I can make a big difference in a small way.

He tells my by the way that what he gives out comes from his own pocket. He’s grateful for his role, and for his airline’s customers. He reports that he told his wife though that he “spent $400 on Godiva yesterday she went crazy at me.”

I see this as a fantastic way to touch customers, and to stay connected to the people you’re serving beyond how they’re embodied in spreadsheets.

Credit: Mark Ross-Smith

By the way Malaysia Airlines Enrich is a Citibank ThankYou transfer partner, they have actually receive meet and greet service in the airport,

A porter unloads bags from the member’s car, talks them to first class check-in, escorts them through VIP immigration and to the lounge and then waits at the lounge until their flight is ready. Members receive an escort to the gate, to the front of security, and onto the plane — putting bags away in the overhead bin.

I don’t love his award chart, though.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] story which got attention was when I was at KLIA until midnight each day for a week – giving boxes of Godiva chocolates to random Enrich members. For a week, I spent hours each evening in the terminal gifting out boxes of chocolates to random […]


  1. United tries to single one person out every day for “special treatment”.

    You don’t want to be that person.

  2. Kudos to him.

    One of the things I insisted on back when I was in the passenger airline business was that every “back office” manager had to spend at least 1 shift in a frontline position every year. Sometimes this would be at the call center, sometimes at the check-in desk, sometimes on the ramp in the rain. It really helped bring about an awareness of all the moving parts in the operation and helped remind them that every number on their spreadsheets was an actual person.

    I’ve run into multiple airline CEOs helping out on the front line at their hub airports over the years. Richard Anderson at Detroit during his NWA days and Tewolde Gebremariam (ET) at Addis. More respect to them for that.

  3. “helped an Enrich member sign up for our Co brand credit card while I bought him a drink at the cafe”

    Wow, how generous! 🙂

  4. When I was Platinum at Emirates, if I was flying economy I used to seat at the back of the aircraft (I like the two-seat row and the extra space behind). Before the flight departed someone always came to greet me by my name and offered me to choose my economy meal, which was served with the special meals. They wanted to be sure that even seated at the back, my food choice was available. It did not cost them any extra money, but it made a difference to me.
    In United, as a 1K and 2.5MM, I don’t even get greeted.

  5. This article doesn’t impress me at all. Enrich is an abysmal frequent flier program. He should stop wasting his time with these little token gestures and actually make his program rewarding so people credit flights to it. The fuel surcharges and award chart prices have always been outrageous, and MH never releases more than 1 or 2 business class seats per flight.

    Gary: I can’t believe you published this PR junk rather than critically reporting on the loyalty program and what garbage it is.

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